Novel Approach Leads to Discovery of Disruption in Brain Connectivity in Schizophrenia

Alan Anticevic, Ph.D., Expert on Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder
Alan Anticevic, Ph.D.

Using new technologies to investigate brain activity in patients with schizophrenia, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine, led by 2012 NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee Alan Anticevic, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, have made an important new discovery about brain activity specific to the illness. By tracking brain activity at rest with fMRI brain scans and analyzing the data which is typically discarded, they found that—contrary to the common belief that global “resting state” brain activity is only background noise—there is widespread disruption of these signals in the brain at “rest” that is related to symptoms of schizophrenia.

The new findings, published online May 5th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer novel insights into the illness that may aid diagnosis, early intervention and treatment of the illness. “Resting state” activity involves global brain activity while the brain is not involved in any particular task, and is also referred to as the global brain signal. This new study suggests for the first time that this global signal is profoundly altered in schizophrenia and may reflect a disruption of overall brain connectivity. This hypothesis is further supported by a neurobiologically-grounded mathematical simulation of global brain activity, developed by John Murray, Ph.D. and Xiao-Jing Wang, Ph.D. at NYU Center for Neural Science.

The research team reports that previous studies have typically discarded global brain signals as a clinically meaningless variable. “To our knowledge these results provide the first evidence that global whole-brain signals are altered in schizophrenia, calling into question the standard removal of this signal in clinical neuroimaging studies,” commented Dr. Anticevic.
 
Other NARSAD Grantees involved in this research include two-time NARSAD Grantee Christopher Pittenger, M.D., Ph.D.; Foundation Scientific Council Member and three-time NARSAD Grantee, John Krystal, M.D.; 2000 NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee, Godfrey Pearlson, M.D.; and three-time NARSAD Grantee, David Glahn, Ph.D.

Read a synopsis of this research from Yale.

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Read the abstract for this research.